What's Hot With Jazz Guitar: Henry Johnson

by Doc Dosco

This week we feature jazz guitarist and my fellow Heritage Guitar endroree
Henry Johnson. Henry is a killer player and a great guy to boot. Be sure
to check him out...

Online Bio

The Chicago-born guitarist began playing at age twelve. While spending
some formative time in Memphis, he started playing gospel music at age
thirteen. By age fourteen, Johnson was playing in R&B groups. Although
Johnson's parents brought him up hearing the music of Duke Ellington,
Count Basie, Joe Williams, and other artists of that era, it was not
until 1967 that Johnson was formally introduced to jazz by hearing
guitarist Wes Montgomery. In 1969, Johnson and his family then moved
back to Chicago where he developed a reputation on the south side as a
good local jazz guitarist. In 1976, he went on the road with jazz
organist Jack McDuff and was called to work with vocalist, Donny
Hathaway in 1977.

In 1979, Johnson began playing with jazz pianist, Ramsey Lewis. And in
1985, jazz legend, Joe Williams added Johnson to his regular group.
Johnson's musical roots run deep into gospel, blues, and jazz. His
strongest and earliest influences were Kenny Burrell, George Benson, and
most significantly, Wes Montgomery. While influenced by these great
guitarists, Johnson also cites the music of Herbie Hancock, Oscar
Peterson, Freddie Hubbard, Miles Davis, big bands, and jazz orchestras
as integral forces which shaped his sound and style.

"You're The One," his recording debut for MCA/Impulse! achieved #1
status on both the Radio & Records NAC chart, and Contemporary Jazz
chart for two months - a rare occurrence for a first recording. This
recording also won a five star rating in Downbeat magazine, and was
nominated for a Grammy. Jazz Times reviewer Diane Patrick called "You're
The One" "A thoughtful piece of work which may well become a jazz guitar

Johnson's follow-up recordings, "Future Excursions" and "Never Too Much"
also reached the top of the charts."New Beginnings" was Johnson's debut
recording for the Heads Up International jazz label. Johnson's music has
been a favorite at radio stations world wide since the release of his
very first CD, "You're the One" on MCA/Impulse! and the appeal of his
music continued with the release of his second recording for Heads Up
International, titled "Missing You."

In addition to his solo recording projects, Johnson has found time to
record with the likes of Ramsey Lewis, vocalists, Joe Williams and
Vanessa Ruben, and saxophonist Richie Cole among many others. He has
performed with Nancy Wilson, Marlena Shaw, Angela Bofil, Dizzy
Gillespie, the Boston Pops, Sonny Stitt, Freddie Hubbard, Grover
Washington Jr., Stanley Turrentine, Dr. Billy Taylor, and organist Jimmy
Smith, James Moody, David "Fathead" Newman, Terry Gibbs, Bobby Watson,
Nicholas Payton, and many other great jazz artists.

Seeing the need to re-invent himself, Johnson recorded a cd live called
"An Evening At Sea" from aboard the ocean liner, the QE 2 in 1999. This
recording was also well received by the jazz world. Johnson's most
recent group has been patterned after the hard swinging jazz groups of
the '60's using the instrumentation of guitar, saxophone, organ, and
drums. Johnson's latest recording on A440 Music Group is called
"Organic" and features legendary vocalist Nancy Wilson. It is this
powerhouse group the Organ Express, that has been exciting audiences the
world over.

Henry Johnson's website:

Doc Dosco is a jazz guitarist, composer and audio consultant living in Los Angeles, CA. His website is located at http://www.docdosco.com, where you can find more information on the 'What's Hot with Jazz Guitar' columns, audio clips of Doc's playing, and many additional features. Doc endorses Heritage Guitars and is featured artist on their website. He also endorses the new Pignose Valve Tube Amps -- great for jazz (and anything else!)

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